CBD cannabidiol

What is CBD? CBD, short for cannabidiol, is an active compound found in the cannabis plant. CBD is not intoxicating but may cause some drowsiness. The CBD in most products is extracted from hemp, a variety of cannabis that has only traces (up to 0.3%) of THC, the active compound that gets people high.

Is CBD safe to use? Research evaluating the safety of CBD is underway. At this point very little is known. So far, no serious safety concerns have been associated with moderate doses. CBD is thought to have the potential to interact with some drugs commonly taken by people with arthritis.

Are CBD products legal? CBD products derived from hemp are no longer considered Schedule I drugs. There are changes underway in many countries’ legislation that will ultimately clarify the laws and regulations related to CBD-based products and sales. Despite that, they’re widely available in nearly every state and online. People who want to use CBD should check their country’s laws.

What type of product should I consider? CBD-based products can be taken orally, applied to the skin or inhaled. There are plus and minuses for each.

By mouth. CBD that is swallowed, whether in capsules, food or liquid, is absorbed through the digestive tract. Absorption is slow and dosing is tricky due to the delayed onset of effect (one to two hours), unknown effects of stomach acids, recent meals and other factors.

Capsules can work for daily use after a safe, effective capsule dose has been established. Some experts discourage taking CBD via edibles, like gummies and cookies, because dosing is unreliable.

CBD can also be absorbed directly into the bloodstream by holding liquid from a spray or tincture (a liquid dosed by a dropper) under the tongue (sublingual) for 60 to 120 seconds. The taste may not be pleasant. Effects may be felt within 15 to 45 minutes.

On the skin. Topical products, like lotions and balms, are applied to the skin over a painful joint. 

Inhaled. CBD can be inhaled via a vaporizing, or vape, pen.

How much CBD should I use? While there are no established clinical guidelines, for example the medical experts consulted by the Arthritis Foundation recommend the following for adults:

  • When preparing to take a liquid form, be aware that the CBD extract is mixed with a carrier oil, so there are two measures to know: the amount of the liquid product to take (the dose) and the amount of CBD in each dose.
  • Go low and slow. Start with just a few milligrams of CBD in sublingual form twice a day. If relief is inadequate after one week, increase the dose by that same amount. If needed, go up in small increments over several weeks. If you find relief, continue taking that dose twice daily to maintain a stable level of CBD in the blood.
  • If you experience any unwanted side effects when using a CBD product, immediately discontinue use and inform your doctor.